A Bubble Of ThoughtfulnessA column article, Fool Britannia by: Regie Rigby
Am I late for this week, really late for this week, or quite early for next? I’m beginning to lose the ability to tell. A bit of a “bitty” instalment, since there are a bunch of things I want to talk about that are all too short to merit padding out to a full length column. So, first up, Christmas is coming, a fact which pleases me not one jot, but of which I was reminded last week when a large parcel arrived on my doorstep. It was not a Christmas gift as such – the Holidays are still some weeks away, whatever the shops might think*. It was instead a bundle of books for review sent to me by Tharg’s droids at 2000AD. A very nice little bundle it was too** and as they slid out of the padded envelope I marvelled at just how brilliant this job is*** and also thought “Wow, some of these would make excellent Christmas prezzies for the discerning comics fan”. Then, on Saturday, seeking shelter from a veritable storm of school work**** I found myself in the wonderful Destination Venus, which as regular readers****** will know is my local comics store. There in the window sat a copy of Watching the Watchmen. Big and beautiful, and at thirty two quid far more money than I should be spending on myself in these post credit crunch times. On the other hand there are a limited numbers of this book available – Venus only managed to get two copies, and I know they ordered more – and I’ve been eagerly waiting for it since I heard Dave Gibbons talking about it with Budgie Barnett at Bristol back in May. How gutted would I be if thrift caused me to not buy this book, and then I never managed to get hold of one? Very. Very gutted indeed. Which is why, when I arrived home my loving and long suffering wife was presented with a sealed Destination Venus bag******* with the words “’Allo – you bought me a Christmas present!” So, that’s another book in the “Great Books for Christmas” list. And then it hit me. There must be loads of books that would make excellent Christmas presents, and I just don’t know about them. So. Tell me. Which graphic novels or trade paperback collections would you choose as a gift this Christmas********? Which Trades or OGNs would you want to give away as festive gifts? The message board stands open for your suggestions – and I’m quite open to self publishers plugging their work here, so if you think you box, get in the ring – point me in the right direction and I’ll tell the world********** whether it should buy your stuff or not. Well? I’m waiting… And now, well, on to other things. First up, should you find yourself in the vicinity of Leeds, Capital of West Yorkshire, and officially the fastest growing city in the UK*********** at the weekend, O(well, tomorrow now, which I appreciate is short notice…) you might want to check out the Thought Bubble Festival. It makes me happy to think that there is a comics festival type thing so close to where I live (the venue is less than a half hour drive from my house – it takes me longer than that to get to work in a morning), especially when it seems to be part of a resurgence of such events. After all, it’s a mere ten years since the last ever U.K. Comic Art Convention was held in a suitably grey and depressing Manchester************. At that point high costs had driven the event out of London, and for most of the weekend people felt that it might well be the end for the UK festival scene. It’s good to know that the prophecies of doom were entirely wrong. The indomitable Kev F. Sutherland launched the first Bristol event the following year, and since then events have sprung up once more in London, in Birmingham (the original home of the UK comic convention scene as I understand it) and elsewhere. Some are big, some are small, but they all have their own flavour, and they don’t undermine each other or try to steal each other’s guests. This is good, because I reckon a healthy Con Scene is the sign of a healthy fandom, and a healthy fandom is necessary for a healthy, viable comics scene to exist. Cons, or Festivals, or Expos, or whatever you want to call them are more than mere social gatherings (although even if they were they’d still be valuable). My experience of cities that host these comic events, large or small, is that they become places that are more open to and accepting of comics. People see large numbers of other people – apparently normal and perfectly intelligent people – spending time on comics and they begin to think that maybe comics aren’t just cheap nonsense for “kids and semi-literates”. Especially when they see it a lot. I’ve mentioned before that the Bristol event even seems to be developing a sort of “fringe”, as local businesses normally unconnected with comics begin to cotton on to the fact that there’ll be a lot of comics fans in town and so do things to attract them in*************. In other words, comics become an accepted part of life, rather than something weird to be sneered at. And while it really shouldn’t bother us when people sneer at the medium, I reckon that things are better when they don’t. *I get really fed up with the way that Christmas gifts and decorations arrive in shops around about September. My local supermarket actually rearranged things in the second week of September this year, moving the Halloween stuff out of the way to make room for the Christmas stuff. In early September! Madness! **Expect reviews in a couple of weeks when I’ve had chance to read them… ***In spite of my now lamentable time-keeping, I do love it, and I love it most when such brilliant stuff lands on my doormat. ****The problem with setting the kids work to do is that I have to mark it, and sometimes they write such a lot. Whole weekends vanish in a flurry of paper and pink ink.***** *****So I mark in pink. What of it? ******And in spite of my irregularity lately I surely must have some left, mustn’t I? *******Because I mentioned my intention of passing it onto my wife as a potential present and the excellent “Comic Shop Steve” instantly taped the bag up so that I couldn’t peek. ********Or other mid-winter festival of your choice*********. *********Unless you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, in which case it’s a mid-summer festival, which frankly just confuses matters. **********Well, the bit of it that reads this, anyway. ***********Well, pre-credit crunch anyway… ************Don’t send me e-mails – I don’t mean that Manchester is a grey and depressing place, I’m referring to the weather that weekend, which was pretty dismal as I recall. *************My favourite example of this is still the costume hire shop that made sure everything in the window during festival weekend was comics related.